Saturday, April 28, 2012

RMP: Back to Reality

I read a quote today from R.C. Sproul, "The good news isn't the good news without the bad news."

The bad news? We're sinners, and completely undeserving of grace. The good news? Christ paid for it, and we get to accept that payment if we choose to do so.

And I guess a lot of people get really tired of hearing the "basic gospel message" - whatever that is. 'Cuz, honestly I think every message we give as Christians needs to be focused on our depravity and God's glory. Call me crazy, but that's what I think.

As for the video, let's just call it... relevant.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Ever since I loved Chinese food, (basically since birth) I've seen a particular sign at many Asian restaurants:

Our Chinese Food: NO MSG!

Well, that's great, right? Everyone knows MSG is bad for you, right? Oh, consumer, consumer. I'm sorry that you feel this way. You're missing out on one of the greatest flavor-enhancers known to man.

I, unfortunately, also used to believe this lie. Even my mom, who often put an MSG product in some of her foods, said that she didn't like to use it all the time because it's bad for you. However, as I was taking Nutrition this semester, I learned that MSG (short for monosodium glutamate) is actually not all that bad. The only people that have adverse reactions to eating it with their food are people who are specifically sensitive to it. And certain organizations have deemed that those who are MSG-sensitive are only about 1% of the general population. The bad rap that MSG has gotten has largely been a result of word-of-mouth old-wives-tale style myth production.

Me? I love MSG! Throw some in my soup or slap it on my steak - I'll eat it! MSG is a flavor enhancer that "balances, blends and rounds the total perception of other tastes." If that's the case, do it up!

Well, hey, funny story - do you know what else enhances flavor? Salt! And with that one word, you should know exactly what road I'm about to go down. Ain't no way a Christian man brings up salt without you knowing what direction he's headed. And, oh yes, we're going there. I've got my GPS and a full tank, so let's do this.

Luke 14 says the following: "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out."

So, if Matthew 5 says that we are the salt of the earth, then there's two things I'd like to address.

A: Understand what "salt" was.

Scientifically, pure table salt (NaCl) cannot lose its saltiness. However, I don't believe that table salt is what Jesus was talking about. It seems, from what I've studied, that the ancient Jews used to get their salt from a rock ledge next to the Dead Sea. (which is very salty) What would happen is that the salt from the ocean would evaporate onto the rock ledge, leaving behind flakes of salt. However, the salt was mixed with various other minerals and substances, making it very easy for the salt to leach out of the substance called "salt." I bring this up just to give a little bit of Biblical understanding to something that might have confused you.

#2: Be tasty!

Most of the times that I've heard pastors talk about Christians being salt, I see them make the point that we are to preserve this world. That is one entirely beautiful and Biblically accurate point. However, that's not what I want to focus on today. My point in all this is that we should make this world more intense. 'Cuz that's what salt does, right? It simply intensifies the flavor of whatever it's put on.

So how do we intensify this world? I think Romans 12 shows some pretty interesting ways of doing this:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

As I was reading this passage yesterday, it blew me away. Associate with the lowly? Bless those who persecute you? Outdo one another in honor!? Are you kidding me? Who does that!?

Apparently, we should be. And I'm sorry to pull the "we're-terrible-because-we-live-in-America" card, but our society has turned us into me-monsters. What I find necessary to do the things listed in Romans 12 is a paradigm shift that occurs in our minds which transfers our desires from that of our own success to the success of others.

That is when we will be flavoring the world. That is when people will look up and take notice. Because if you're like me, I expect everyone else to be a me-monster, too. When I see someone that goes out of their way to do something for me, well, let's just say that it leaves a good taste in my mouth.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

RMP: Big Wave Surfing

Big Wave Surfing.

Now, I'm not a huge fan of surfing, but this video shows some epic Big Wave Surfing wipeouts. If you don't know what Big Wave Surfing is... well, it's, uh... surfing big waves. Not too complicated, bud.

Anyways, the reason I show this video is because I want you to think about the fear striking the hearts of the people wiping out in these videos. I don't care how long you've been surfing or how much you've seen - the sheer force and power of these tsunami-like waves is enough to scare the living daylights out of you. Not the dead ones. The living ones.

In any case, as I was thinking about this, I realized that these tremendous waves are nothing more than what happens when God steps in a puddle. These waves are the ripples of his feet. If our God is that enormous and powerful, what can we fear? It reminds me of those verses in Romans 8 that say, "If God is for us, who can be against us?... Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one."

If that doesn't get rid of your fear, I don't know what will.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Power Soup and Making Sense

One of my best friends is simultaneously one of my strongest friends. To put it frankly, he's got pythons for arms. I've known him a long time, and he wasn't always that way. When I first knew him, he was pretty normal-sized. Then, as the years went by, he started hitting the gym and getting really strong. He could probably crack open walnuts with his guns. And I don't even think he likes walnuts!

Anyways, my friend eventually went on to compete in some power-lifting contests, even setting some world records. Having been to one of them, it might just be one of the most testosterone-filled places to be. Men (and some women) were lifting weights so heavy that they made the bars bend as they were taken off of the floor. You could literally grab the manliness out of the air and make soup out of it. Power soup. Yup.

In any case, my friend didn't get to where we has by just waking up, throwing on some exercise clothes, drinking a protein shake, and then sitting down to watch some TV. Nope. He worked. And when I say worked, I mean he went to the gym 5-6 times a week, often very early in the morning. He made sure that he was thoroughly disciplined in working out, doing the things that he knew he needed to do in order to accomplish the goals that he had.

So why don't we get it?

The physical realm reflects the spiritual. So, just like it takes a lot of working out to become strong, it takes a lot of prayer to be effective spiritually. We know this, yet, somehow, we don't take full advantage of it. And it doesn't make sense. I'll show you. Back before you were saved, you actively pursued the things that you wanted to be strong in. For some, this might have meant drugs, alcohol, parties, and general wild-living. For others, this could have meant being the ultra-religious holy roller who knew nothing else than making himself look better than everyone else. For others, this might have meant hanging out with friends and doing anything you could to make sure everyone liked you. For others, this might have been endlessly seeking "the one" person that would fulfill all of your romantic dreams.

Whatever the case is, your life's energy was devoted to finding strength in these things. But after you found Christ, you discovered that the only way to be satisfied and strong was to have a perfect relationship with Him. And the way to do that was by pursuing him in prayer and meditation on His Word. And if you haven't been completely convinced of that, check out Isaiah 40:
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

So I'll say it again: Expecting to be effective spiritually, while in a prayer-less state, simply does not make sense.

If the Scriptures tell us that this is where we find our power, we are truly being stupid to do things any other way. And I will be the first to admit stupidity. For as much as I can try to rail against others for not praying, I am inexcusably also at fault. Thankfully, God's working on me in this area. But let's be honest: how many of us run from this ministry-site to that Bible study, to that homeless outreach, to that Sunday school teaching session without having first found our strength in prayer? Without it, all of our "spiritual activities" are truly counter-productive, because we're subconsciously making the claim, "I don't need God's strength. I can do this on my own."

I don't know about you, but I am tired of doing it all on my own. Because I can't bring people to salvation, only Christ can. I can't help people grow in their relationship with God, only Christ can. So if I want my work for the Kingdom to be blessed, I need to have some sit-down time with the King.

So that leaves you. What's holding you back from strength-filling prayer?

Friday, April 13, 2012

RMP: When Death Dies

Now, I will always do my best to be completely honest. In this case, I will say that I am not a huge fan of the band Gungor. Much of their style just doesn't jive with the kind of music that I normally like.

HOWEVER, (please note the capital letters - it took a lot of work to get those up there) I do thoroughly enjoy one of their songs called When Death Dies. Usually, I'm a pretty big fan of clever wordplay and strong lyrics, and with this one, they hit the nail on the head. Also, they're ridiculously talented instrumentally. (Old school saying, I know.) Check this out:
Where death dies all things come alive
Where it comes water’s clean
Children fed
All believe
When death dies all things live
All things live
 If that hasn't tickled your mind's tastebuds, then check out the song. You shall like.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Considering the fact that I've created a precedent of writing about holidays after they've passed, I figured I'd continue that tradition with talking a little bit about Easter.

As I sat down to write about this, I was struck with the gravity of the subject. Because, as all good Christians know, Easter isn't about bunnies, eggs, and egg-hunts. It isn't about dressing nice and wearing your "Easter suit." It's not about Easter's past as a pagan holiday. It's not about hanging out with fellow believers. It's not even about going to church and listening to a sermon. It's about remembering.

When I was a kid, I used to go to a really small church. It was so small, in fact, that we didn't even have our own building. We rented space from another church in order to hold our service. Well, in the main sanctuary of the church, there was a big, wooden table right in front of the altar, with the following words engraved into it's side:
"Do this in remembrance of me."
As a child seeing this same phrase every week, I began to have it engraved in my memory, just as it was engraved on the table. I remember thinking about the word "remembrance." It stood out to me so much - it was the only big word on the table. It stood out more than the fake flowers that were always perched on the top of the table. Whenever I hear the word "remembrance," I almost always get a mental picture of that word engraved in wood.

It turns out that this phrase that I had seen so much was a quote from 1 Corinthians 11, which discusses the practice of Communion. In the continuation of that phrase, Paul goes on to write, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."

Proclaim the Lord's death? What? Why?

The fact that Jesus tells us to commemorate his death instead of his birth is so counter-culturally unique. In a culture that celebrates birthdays, grand openings, and things that are new, it might be a little difficult to get why we were told to remember Jesus' death. Well, if I'm correct, there's one main reason:

Christ's death on the cross is the single most powerful example of God's love for us.

Romans 5 says, "...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Well it makes sense, doesn't it? Before Paul wrote this, he precedes it with saying, "perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die..." But we weren't good people, were we? We were God-hating, lying, cheating, murderous, adulterous thieves. Our hearts were so filled with pure darkness that it took the death of the Son of Almighty God to restore us. And that's the point at which God saved us. Not on the day of our best behavior and morality. No. It was when we were at our worst.

That's why this is the ultimate example of love. Christ did not do it for himself, but for the salvation of the world. He did not do it when it was easy, but when it was the hardest thing in the world for Him to do. God did not do it begrudgingly, but "for the joy that was set before him endured the cross." (Heb. 12)

So I encourage you to not only view Easter as a chance to remember Christ's supreme, inimitable love for you, but to take every chance you get to think about His sacrifice. And remember.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

RMP: Deathbed

I have a special space in my heart for songs that tell stories. Next to that space, I also have a space allocated for the band Relient K. And next to that space is a space for PB&J, but that's irrelevant. Anyways, it's something about their poignant lyrics and gift for alt rock. If you don't know who that is, please find out. I recommend the album "Forget and Not Slow Down."

Anywho, this is a song by Relient K called Deathbed, and it essentially chronicles the life of a man from birth to death. Oh, and it's disgustingly long. In a good way. (close to 11 minutes) Don't let that deter you from listening to it, though. It's amazing.

'Nuff said.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cheat Sheet

In my first year of college, I had the marvelous honor of taking Statistics. (-__-) Anyhow, as the weeks passed in the class, I had this "friend," which I spoke to whenever I was in class. Honestly, I don't even remember her name, but let's call her Jessica.

Things were going well. I was working hard in the class, trying to get an A. All went fairly agreeably until the first time I noticed that Jessica was cheating off of one of the big tests we had. Being the graciously graceful grace-man that I was, I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. To gain some insight, here's a few of the thoughts that went through my mind.

1. Maybe she's not cheating on me. Maybe it just looks like her head is tilted towards my paper. Maybe.

2. I don't want to cover up my paper - that would basically be accusing her of a crime I'm not sure she's even committing!

3. Maybe I can just tilt the paper so she can't read my writing... oh wait, it's multiple choice.

4. I need to find out if she's legit copying off of my test. I'll just turn my head a little to find out if she actually is cheating. But would she really stoop to that level? I mean she doesn't study a lot, but she must have integrity!

5. I worked hard to do good on this test. If she's cheating, I'm going to punch her in the kidneys. That'll show her integrity.

Well, this mental battle continued until the test was over. When we got out, she gave me a hug and said if she gets a good grade, that it was because of me. That's about the time that I busted out the Falcon Punch.

Or so I wished. Anyhow, I wanted to make sure that it wouldn't happen again. By the time the next test rolled around, I had it all planned out. I was going to put my backpack on the table, (the teacher didn't care) thus blocking her vision of my test. 

When she got into class the day of the test, I already had my backpack on the table in prime hater-blocker position. When she sat down, she actually picked up my backpack and put it on the ground.

Two words: uh-uh.

I picked up that bag and slapped that sucker right back on the table while looking at her straight in the eye-holes. She looked at me and with wide, incredulous eyes, said, "Are you serious?" To which I responded with a simple, "Yup." Ain't no pretty girl cheatin' off my test! No way, Joe Say!

Anyways, the point? In perhaps one of the longest intros to anything I've written, I want to say that some of us are like that girl. How? One word: commentaries.

I honestly don't know how many people this actually applies to, but hear me out. Whenever I read the Bible, if I get to a part that I might not understand, my immediate temptation is to just glance down to the bottom of the page and look up what the commentary has to say about it. At this point you may be saying, "Good job! What's the deal?"

I don't want the words of men to be my cheat sheet.

Lately, I've been especially convicted by this idea while reading The Autobiography of George Muller. If you don't know anything about this guy, just know that he was a man who had a gift for faith. In one excerpt of his book, he says,
"I was growing in the faith and knowledge of Jesus, but I still preferred reading religious books instead of the Scriptures. I read tracts, missionary newsletters, sermons, and biographies of Christian people. God is the author of the Bible, and only the truth it contains will lead people to true happiness."
He then goes on to describe how he grew in this area:
...I ask the Lord to graciously teach me by His Holy Spirit while I meditate over the passages. I write down notes as the Word is opened to me to see how well I understand the passage... I seldom use any other study aids besides the Scriptures and some good translations in other languages. My chief help is prayer."
Simple, eh? The idea behind what I'm trying to say is that we need to depend on Christ and His Holy Spirit to reveal to us the secrets contained in the Word of God. 1 Corinthians 2 talks a whole lot about having God reveal to you the secrets of wisdom. It says, "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned."

A really clear example of this is when Jesus repeatedly told the disciples that He was going to be murdered. In Luke 9, directly after Jesus tells them this information once again, the passage says, in reference to the disciples, that, "they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it."

So, it looks like a man can't even understand truth unless God gives him the spiritual discernment to see it. This is why I've recently been starting the time that I spend alone with God with a prayer for God to reveal to me the truth hidden in His Word. Let me tell you: it's pretty amazing to be reading a Scripture you don't understand, praying and meditating on it, and having the answer shown to you by God Himself.

This is not to say that Christian books, study guides, commentaries, and things of the like are bad, we just need to learn to, as Ravi Zacharias says, "let the Bible interpret the Bible." The words of men are simply multi-vitamins, not the meal itself.

And now to end with one of my favorite quotes, which I will allow you to determine how it is relevant:

Tell the truth; shame the devil!

Monday, April 2, 2012

RMP: Live Loved

Tenth Avenue North is stellar. I use the word stellar because Mike's (the lead singer) teeth twinkle like stars in the sky.


Foriddo, ("for real though") they are a really good band, and if you haven't heard of them, you've probably had a rock living on top of you. Or something like that. They produce some of the most powerful worship songs I've heard and are refreshingly original. (You Are More, By Your Side, etc.)

Anyways, I found this video through a friend that posted it on facebook, and suffice it to say: it's sicknasty. All the way. Mike breaks down a lot of why we struggle with obeying God, and I'd have to agree with him.

Without giving much of the video away and without further adieu, I present to you Live Loved.